- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2012

Syria’s main opposition group is in disarray, and its leader Thursday offered to step down, nearly 15 months after the start of an uprising aimed at toppling President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council, said he would resign in the face of infighting in the group and criticism of his leadership.

The council has also been the international community’s main point of contact in the opposition to Mr. Assad.

Mr. Ghalioun was re-elected to a third three-month term Tuesday. His re-election annoyed some opposition activists because the council had said it would rotate the presidency every three months.

Mr. Ghalioun, who is based in Paris, offered to resign for the sake of the council’s unity.

“I will not accept under any circumstances to be a divisive candidate, and I am not after any post,” he said. “I will resign as soon as a new candidate is picked, either by consensus or new elections.”

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria, a network of activists, threatened Thursday to pull out of the national council, accusing the group of becoming undemocratic.

In a strongly worded statement, the network accused Mr. Ghalioun of “political and organizational failure” and the national council of straying from the “spirit and demands of the Syrian revolution.”

The council has also “marginalized the demands of the revolutionaries in Syria,” it said.

The situation in the council “reflects their distance from directions towards a civil state, democracy, transparency and the transfer of power desired in a new Syria,” it added.

Rafif Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees, said in an interview that the council had failed to unite the opposition.

“The Syrian National Council has failed as an umbrella organization and has failed to adequately represent the Syrian revolution,” she said. “We were hoping for a democratic organization that would lead the way, but the [council] has failed to step forward.

“We are saying, ‘Put aside personal agendas and political ambitions. Otherwise we cannot be affiliated with the organization.’ “

The coordination committees has not met with the national council for the past two months.

Activists inside Syria, meanwhile, have grown frustrated with the council in part because of the slow pace of their revolution to overthrow Mr. Assad.

The Assad regime’s forces this week launched a fierce assault on Rastan and al Qusoor, opposition strongholds in Syria’s western province of Homs.

“The shelling continues even while the U.N. observers are present in Homs,” said Abu Rami, a Syrian opposition spokesman who used his pseudonym, in an interview from Homs.

The regime’s forces executed 15 people in the city of Homs on Wednesday, and more than 150 people are missing, he added.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the uprising, according to the United Nations.

Citing the continuing violence, Ms. Jouejati said there is an urgent need for the national council to address the concerns raised by the activists.

“The council needs to go back to what this revolution was all about,” Ms. Jouejati said. “There are lives on the line.”

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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